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Pensées and Other Writings

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  182 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
For much of his life, Pascal (1623-62) worked on a magnum opus which was never published in the form the philosopher intended. Instead, Pascal left a mass of fragments, some of them meant as notes for the Apologie. These became known as the Pensees, and they occupy a crucial place in Western philosophy and religious writing. This translation is the only one based on the Pe ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 10th 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Apr 27, 2013 Szplug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Men are so necessarily mad that it would be another twist of madness not to be mad.

And what completes our inability to understand things is that they are not so simple in themselves, and we are made up of two different kinds of opposing natures, body and soul...For this reason almost all philosophers confuse the ideas of things, and speak spiritually of corporeal things and corporeally of spiritual ones...Instead of accepting the idea of these things in their pure state, we tint them with our q
Mar 23, 2015 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, religion
Pascal's Pensées were never intended to be read, much like Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. As such, they honestly reveal the private thoughts of great philosophers on the human condition, and lo, they speak of how miserable people are. Both were lonely men made so by their great intellect and great character. While Marcus continues to strive with Ragnarokian futility to fulfill all his duties in a life of perfect virtue, Pascal is a bit more pessimistic, yet in the end more hopeful when he looks t ...more
This was a fantastic reading experience - in what I suspect maybe the most obscure and unhelpful comparison I may make on Goodreads - the literary version of Janacek's On an Overgrown Path in which as the cycle of pieces continues the music grows sparser and the silences speak ever louder until a few bare notes are richly poignant.

Now, how was the Pascal similar? In the edition I came across you effectively read them in reserve order starting from the most developed form of the idea and then w
It is difficult to decide what to say upon reading The Pensees of Blaise Pascal. The fragments, some resembling aphorisms with a few extending to several pages of prose, were left disorganized and unedited at Pascal's death. Readers have pondered over The Pensees (literally thoughts) ever since trying to interpret them and discern some semblance of a world view from them. In my reading I also tried to comprehend the fragmentary comments and found the views of Monsieur Pascal, to the extent that ...more
Apr 15, 2007 Conrad rated it it was amazing
Not to be mixed up with his first, somewhat less mature work of theology, "Peeneses," this collection of aphorisms and assorted sentence-long bits of wisdom has been pleasing everyone it could since it was written nearly eight thousand years ago. Pascal's influence on such diverse thinkers as Dostoevsky and Wittgenstein has been incalculable, though his fame probably reached its apex when the world-famous comic strip "Modesty Blaise" was named in his honor.

I am no worshipper of the Christ, but B
Vince Potenza
Aug 21, 2010 Vince Potenza rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a tough one.

There are two reasons why I read this book: (1) For years a long time ago, in my capacity as Production Manager for a printing company, I helped produce the local high school’s annual literary/arts magazine, The Thinking Reed. It won First Prize in the statewide Scholastic Publications Competition every single year. On the back cover of every issue was: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. —Blaise Pascal.” All my life I’ve been total
Justin Evans
Dec 12, 2011 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow- I read the edited version, which the Levis got down to about 180, plus a few other essays which were reasonably helpful. Having done this, I'm pretty happy saying that someone should really do a 90 page version, which would give you much of the important material, without any of the random notes. When people read, say, Heidegger or Dostoevsky, they don't feel obliged to read the notes they made on the back of restaurant menus along the lines of "look up Kierkegaard on the color green" or "t ...more
Jason Harris
Pascal gets four stars. The 1995 Oxford/Levi translation/edition gets two.

Pensées is 30% nonsense, 30% genius, and 40% somewhere in between.

Pascal is a Reformation-era Roman Catholic in good standing. He is Augustinian, and therefore Calvinist in many respects, but despises Calvin. To top it off, he's a mathematician, not a theologian. So the outcome can be quite scattered at times. Still, for a book that he never actually wrote, this is a remarkable book.

As far as the Levis (translator/editor),
Nov 06, 2013 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have a feeling in my bones that someday I will work over my own problems, return to this book, and love it. For the time being, however, it's all like vinegar to the teeth. Maybe it was because Pascal never married. Maybe it was because he had ill health. Maybe it was because his sister became a nun.

What's my beef?

The most depressing thing for me was his continued emphasis that in this life we cannot find happiness without God. There is a sense this is true: without acknowledging God and than
Aaron Hook
Mar 24, 2013 Aaron Hook rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
It's difficult to rate a work like this. The Pensees are the notes and fragments Pascal left behind for what would probably have become his masterpiece had he not died so young. This particular edition (the Honor Levi translation) has a solid introduction and valuable "lesser" writings tacked on at the end. The most important of these being his "Writings on Grace," which I'd consider necessary for understanding the rest of Pascal's work. The main points underpinning his thinking (as I understand ...more
Jul 27, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing
Books don't get any better than this. While this work does not have a narrative or a particular argument running through it, but is a collection of thoughts, pensées, any one of which is worth entire oeuvres of other authors. there is never a time where i don't pick up this book, read a page, or a thought, and i'm not blown way. Fragment 230, perhaps the longest "thought" of the book, speaks of the two infinites and the disproportion of man. To quote briefly from that passage, "What is man in in ...more
I wanted to enjoy reading this more than I actually did. At this point in my reading life I find it a real challenge to greet, with unclenched jaw, presentations of proofs for God's existence. Ultimately, Pascal does and doesn't do that. I finished the book feeling slightly annoyed at the amount of time I put into it but with a begrudging respect for what he seemed to be trying to do.

His actual intent is not clear as Pensées are a loosely cataloged series of fragmentary notes that might have bee
Paul Cato
A wonderful collection of thoughts on the nature of Christianity and the human condition. Though he is obviously not an existentialist one can see traces of Kierkegaard and Camus in his contemplation of "the wretchedness" and misery of man and his attempts to find a solution for it: God. One can only wonder what his text would have accomplished had he not died so early in life.

Nevertheless it took many a secondary source to even begin to understand the depth that each fragment carried. I'll have
Matthew Hurley
Pascal does what few philosophers are willing to do: unabashedly embraces the paradox of Jesus Christ as the center and explanation for the human experience. He feigns no intellectual superiority or autonomy, but accurately observes the simultaneous wretchedness and glory of man, the corruption of nature and the redemption of Christianity, and nails all his philosophy to the God-man in the center, supporting it all.
Brook Finlayson
Aug 20, 2007 Brook Finlayson rated it it was amazing
I need to pick this up again. I read about a third of it. It is, of course, a collection of notes Pascal intended to use as the basis of a magnum opus, so there's no real organixation. Almost every comment invites a serious pondering. Slow going, but rewarding.
I suppose this is a great book, but the Oxford World's Classics translation does not do it justice. The translation is confusing, and the introduction and the notes are too preoccupied with theological issues that are not interesting to the lay reader.
I think it was in Thomas Bernhard's Frost that the mad painter Strauch carried around a tattered copy of the Pensees. Having recently read Frost, I was reminded of Pascal, who I have never delved as deeply into as I perhaps should have.
Sep 15, 2013 Saralyn rated it did not like it
Shelves: religion
Begs the question and arrogantly takes an elitist, self-prophesying stance.

The one thing I learned from this book was how to pronounce its title (pawn-say not pen-sees).
Seth Channell
This book caused me to think, which in my mind is what makes a good book. However, because of its disjointed nature it was not the easiest read.

Nov 11, 2013 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Here, at last, is a philosopher I can really get behind. Wise, incredibly sharp, and unflinchingly Christian, this is a grand work.
Gwen Burrow
Jan 02, 2010 Gwen Burrow rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, philosophy
Blaise Pascal has much the same insight, wit, and persuasive power as C. S. Lewis. Welcome my new hero.
Theoretical book. Blaise Pascal's thoughts on Christianity, faith, the human condition, and God.
Jun 03, 2007 Otto added it
the everyday thoughts of a brilliant man, from bridge construction to friendship to god.
Sep 23, 2014 Anoma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Always enjoyable to read plain thoughts.
Marlene  Schuler
Mites and universes. Wut.
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French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal was a contemporary of René Descartes and was ten when Galileo Galilei was forced to recant his belief that the earth circled the sun. He and Thomas Hobbes lived in Paris at the same time (1640) including the year Hobbes published his famous Leviathan (1651). Together with Pierre de Fermat, Pascal created the calculus of probabilities.

A near-fatal
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“Little things comfort us because little things distress us.” 87 likes
“Man's grandeur is that he knows himself to be miserable.” 19 likes
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